Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Happy the Cat Left the Earth

Happy got to experience rain, sunshine, and moonlight on the weekend he died. I spent all day Sunday with him, carrying him around and petting his beautiful black fur with its thick, light gray undercoat, and white spots on the neck and belly. Coincidentally it was the day Catholics dedicate to their cat saint, so when I lay in bed petting my napping kitty and checked social media there were an unusually large number of cat related posts. I spent a lot of my time speaking softly to Happy. I also internally spoke with Freya. She told me I couldn’t save him, and that she would welcome him to her field and her home.

That evening, he was in my bed and meowed for me to do something. I was not sure what. I carried him to his water; he didn’t want water. I carried him to his food; he didn’t want food. I carried him onto the back porch. He rolled onto his back and gazed up at the moon. The white spot on his belly nearly glowed in the moonlight. I let him sit in the moonlight and checked back on him later, and discovered he had made it back inside the cat door by himself, and camped just inside the flap. When I picked him up I noticed the tip of his tail was wet. He got to trail his tail in the pool one last time, which he loved to do. He had made it all the way out to the pool deck and back, but now he was ready to be carried again. I put him back in my bed and curled up around him. I petted him and we fell asleep. He died in the morning before I woke up.

At first I was not completely sure he was dead, because he was still warm. I could not hear his breath. His gaze was a fixed unblinking stare. Yet, I wanted to let him lie in bed a while, to be sure. It was a replay of how I had found my mother in her bed in the morning after she died in the night. Except my kitty had been in my bed, with me.

Later that morning I was sure he was dead because the fluid that smelled like death leaked out both ends. There was no room left to wonder if he was not quite gone yet. I knew it was time for him to join the other cats that had died here out in the Shadow Garden. It had become my custom to wrap them in a quilt before placing them in their graves. I wondered if Happy was attached to any of the quilts, and as I thought the word ‘attached’ I was trying to move him and realized his front claws were sunk into the quilt on my bed, the Missouri Star quilt a relative made and gave me back in the 80s. He was literally attached to it by his claws. Message received. I wrapped him up in the quilt he died on.

I put on some cat related jewelry. One of the pieces was a ring which was a gold colored, cat shaped trinket I had been given by the other contest judge while we were judging a contest at a local witch event.  I put the portable altar outside with something to toast with, and went out to the Shadow Garden to dig a hole.

The Shadow Garden was named after Shadow, the first cat buried here. I had gotten her as a kitten while I was in college, the baby of my brother’s cat which he had adopted off the street in California. Mom cat and baby cat had both been polydactyls with useable opposable thumbs. Shadow lived to be 20. I cleaned plants away from her stone while I was out in the Shadow Garden. It was a dark gray stone, like her. It said “Shadow” and “1989-2009” on it. Beni-Wan Cat-Obit’s stone was out there too but I couldn’t clear it off because there was a living plant over it. A couple of feet down I hit caliche. I kept going. I had dug these garden beds by hand a quarter of a century ago and knew I could break caliche with hand tools if I was determined enough.

I knew I was going to need to put a temporary stone on the grave as soon as I was done filling it, until I could get an official one carved. I asked the fairies permission to temporarily use a stone from the fairy garden. With their permission I looked for a stone and my eyes lighted on a dark stone with a sparkly white piece on it, just like Happy and his white spot. I put the stone on the portable altar to use during the ritual.

I went in and picked up Happy and carried him one last time. I noticed the cat ring was missing from my hand. I figured that unless I found it, it must have been taken as a cat related token for energy and spirit purposes.

I thought there would be a mound when I was done but the earth ended up completely flat. If I had not placed the stone there I would not have known for sure exactly where the grave was. I toasted Freya, and Heimdall, and Happy, and the spirit of cats. Freya because she was the goddess who welcomed cats to her afterlife abode, and Heimdall because he is the watchman of Asgard, who decided when and where to open the Bridge that leads from Midgard (Earth) to Asgard. He is the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, the path that gods and dead mortals both take to travel between this world and the world of the gods. (It should be noted: the Rainbow Bridge is not a “place” it is a bridge, ephemeral as water droplets and light. It opens and closes in seconds or minutes. It’s not a place for pets to wait, it’s a road to travel. It’s how my late companion Tom got to Asgard after he died. If you’re not planning to go to Asgard, and you want your pets to wait for you and be reunited with you, send them where you are going yourself. This is only the appropriate way for me to send off my cat because I’m heathen-- that is, a member of the Asatru religion-- and Freya is the goddess I pray to for cats and who embraces cats in our religion, and Heimdall is the god who controls the way in to the world of the gods.)

The ritual was complete, but I still had to clean off. I had both the psychic and physical emanations of death clinging to me. Death is not bad but I still needed that energy off of me because it’s incompatible with the living. I threw out the rest of the bedding, saying, “Thank you, goodbye,” to the miasmic objects, and took a shower.

On a day soon after, I went to the store to pick up my prescriptions and the flower markdown bucket had exactly one bouquet in it: pink roses, Freya’s flower. There were some pink snapdragons in it too, one of my favorite flowers. I felt that was put there for me to bring home for Freya and then for Happy. The flowers went on the main house altar, for Freya, both an offering to her and a representation of blessings from her. Each day I picked one of the roses and scattered the petals on Happy’s grave. Then on the following weekend I placed the rest of the bouquet on the grave, and my friends the Connors came to say goodbye to Happy. We had a toast with Spring Blossom green tea, which has some rose in it.


It’s been almost a week now and I wanted to get this written down before I forgot any important details. I’ve gotten out my black clothes and adopted full formal mourning for my cat, just as I did after the deaths of my mom and my companion Tom in 2020. Because I loved my cat and I feel like it. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep this up. As I type this I’m wearing a black cat barrette that I made in my hair, and a black cat necklace that my housemate Marnie gave me, and a black blouse and skirt. The winds are blowing outside and might be bringing rain. Sweetheart kitty is curled up on the cat bed in my office next to me as I sit here writing this on the computer. He’s a sweet kitty and I love him.

Image: Happy, while he was alive, showing off the white spot on his belly. Photo by Erin Lale.

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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